Monday, January 18, 2010

Transparency in Black and White

At the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow,  I found these laminated pieces of paper at the entrance to galleries, near the visitor comment book.  At first glance, I couldn't imagine what they were--definitely not an object or interpretive label;  definitely not a temporary out-of-order sign--what could they be?

I was fascinated to look closer and discover that it was the Quarterly Feedback Report--a summary of visitor comments for that quarter at the gallery.   There were 152,877 visitors--and 1078 of them left comments.   The comments were categorized:  positive, negative, suggestions, observations and enquiries.   What kinds of comments? They provided us with some samples:  one visitor wants the welcome sign in Gaelic; another appreciates the seating, and six people wrote some variation of "the whole building is going to waste.  I don't like modern art."

And, with the comments, there is also the section "The actions we have taken."  They don't seem like radical change, but if I were a regular visitor, I might be keeping an eye for that welcome label in Gaelic or other changes.

The museum is a part of Glasgow Museums, a division of Culture and Sport in Glasgow--so it's a government-run museum--and perhaps there are staff who groan at the thought of producing this report every quarter.   I can't think of another place I've seen such reporting--although the Indianapolis Museum of Art does it in a much broader way with their on-line dashboard.   When I was working with museums in Ukraine, I was often asked about museum statistics in the US.  Because US museums are primarily non-governmental, with independent boards of directors, public statistical reporting such as this seems less common and harder to come by.

So kudos to Glasgow's city government for museum transparency!


Anne W. Ackerson said...

I think posting evaluation sheets like these is a sign of an institution that wants to be committed to its public and is pretty confident that it can follow through. Let's hope that it's more than lip-service!

In any event, it's a challenge for museums elsewhere to follow suit...and DO IT.

Linda Norris said...

Based on my visits to several Glasgow museums, there seems to be a pretty serious commitment. But the follow through is key....